My name is Jerry Inzerillo, Group CEO of Diriyah Company and a staunch advocate for the global hospitality sector and its people for over five decades.
I have been fortunate to have worked with the very best in this industry and have delivered projects that have been recognized and celebrated across the globe. My greatest passion is people and at its core, that is what hospitality is all about, curating and enhancing experiences that forge deeper emotional connections for travelers and guests, offering windows into cultures and ways of life.
At Diriyah Company, we are creating one of the world’s premier cultural destinations, where you can immerse yourself in a depth of heritage and history unlike anywhere else. Centered around an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient At-Turaif District, Diriyah charts the life of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, both as the place of its founding and home to the roots of its modern society.
For the entire team at Diriyah Company, there is immense pride in the role we are playing in opening such an iconic historical site for the first time. As we progress, we are celebrating and showcasing all that Saudi culture has to offer. Each one of us is a guardian of Diriyah’s centuries-long legacy and we all recognize and are motivated by the pride in which it is held by the Saudi people.
What is the vision and mission of Diriyah Company, and how does it fit into the broader goals of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda?
The Vision 2030 agenda is transforming Saudi Arabia into a world leader in tourism, hospitality, and travel. To be involved in such ambitious plans offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute to the next chapter of a nation.
Before I say anything else, it is so important to understand what Diriyah is and, possibly more importantly, what it is not. Diriyah is not just another shiny new-build tourism destination offering the same “copy, paste” product, differentiated only by its address. Diriyah is infinitely more than that.
Diriyah was the site of the founding place of the First Saudi State in 1727 and has, for almost three centuries, been a global gathering place. From its beginning as an oasis that provided sanctuary from a harsh desert climate that nurtured a nascent nation to its rise to a hub for trade, intellectual exchange and artistic expression, Diriyah can truly be described as the heart of a Kingdom and an ancient cradle of Arabian civilization.
The Diriyah Company is fulfilling its mission to forge an unrivalled cultural and lifestyle destination. As Vision 2030 transforms quality of life in the Kingdom, our work across the development is contributing to this success, providing a lifestyle imbued with a breadth of culture and a place in history unrivalled anywhere in the Arabian Peninsula. Diriyah will become the place to celebrate the wonders of Saudi Arabia’s deep history and rich heritage and will showcase to the world the treasures that can be explored in the Kingdom.
What initiatives do you have in place to attract international tourists to the area, and what unique experiences can visitors expect to have?
Visiting Diriyah is a journey of cultural and heritage immersion and discovery not found anywhere else in the region.
Today Diriyah is open, and we have already welcomed over half a million visitors in our first three months.
The At-Turaif district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed in 2010, forms the core of the development. Its enchanting Najdi architecture, recognizable in its mud-brick walls, has inspired the design of the project, creating an environment truly unique to Diriyah. Whether you are exploring the countless exhibitions showcasing some of the country’s most precious artifacts or sampling traditional Arabic coffee in the fabulous 18th Century ruins, you will be enriched by the cultural immersion.
For food-loving travelers, Bujairi Terrace, the Middle East’s new premier cuisine offering, is open and catering to the gastronomical desires of even the most enlightened foodies. Fusing examples of local Saudi cuisine with the world’s most celebrated restaurants, an unrivalled number of culinary adventures await.
Diriyah is also a world-class destination for cultural and sporting events. From Saudi Arabia’s first Contemporary Art Biennale and the Saudi Design Festival, held in the Jax District, to Diriyah Season’s boxing matches, Diriyah Tennis Cup and Diriyah Equestrian Festival, and not forgetting the electrifying Formula E, Diriyah has become a meeting point for the cultural and sporting worlds.
Your journey of discovery at Diriyah is limited only by your imagination.
Can you describe the key projects currently underway at Diriyah, and how they will contribute to developing the area as a cultural and tourism destination?
We are developing a historical destination that has been at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s history since its inception and we are reestablishing it as a global gathering place, attracting proud Saudi nationals, inquisitive international tourists, leading investors, and the pinnacle of cultural talent.
Diriyah is progressing at pace. We ultimately aim to attract 27 million annual visitors and create 55,000 permanent jobs. This will be an almost unimaginable transformation for the area, supporting the local community and offering residents and visitors alike a cultural experience like no other.
Looking to the future, Diriyah Company will be a world leader in hospitality, tourism, and real estate. To highlight just a few examples, we have announced 34 world-class branded hotel operators that will form our hospitality portfolio, including the Ritz-Carlton, Rosewood and Six Senses. We will also welcome more than 400 retail and entertainment outlets to Diriyah Square, which will be one of the country’s largest shopping destinations. Alongside Bujairi Terrace’s renowned culinary collection, our prestigious offerings will complement the Kingdom’s rich culture and heritage and establish Diriyah Company as an industry leader, pioneering cultural urban development and destination management.
We have only just begun to unlock the wonders of Diriyah, and we are immensely proud of our exciting future agenda and to have attracted such iconic brands and partners to be a part of our development journey.
How does the Company ensure that its projects are sustainable and environmentally responsible?
Sustainability is essential at every level of our work in Diriyah, The City of Earth and as we develop, we always seek new ways to maximize best practices and improve our building processes and management, to further that commitment.
Diriyah Company has been awarded the internationally renowned USGBC LEED precertification at the platinum level in recognition of our continuing work to enhance sustainability across the entire development.
We have also enrolled in Saudi Arabia’s own sustainability certification program: MOSTADAM, which is directly linked to achieving the Vision 2030 objective of improving quality of life for all Saudis.
Protecting the natural environment and the way of life that has existed here for centuries is fundamental to our work. Sustainability must therefore be more holistic, conserving, enhancing, and celebrating the community and environment. A great example is that the first phase of the Diriyah Masterplan will be built entirely in the traditional Najdi architectural style, which is such a defining part of Diriyah’s identity and culture. Using locally sourced materials; mud, stone, straw, and water, the development is guided by their use in the UNESCO World Heritage Site At-Turaif.
With such a deeply rooted history and connection to the Kingdom, sustainability and the preservation of its identity and natural environment is at the very heart of our work.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your role as GCEO of Diriyah Company, and how have you addressed them?
Any development or project on the scale of Diriyah, especially one that deals with such a cherished history, inevitably has many challenges. For my part as GCEO, I oversee the myriad Diriyah Company operations across a variety of different departments, individual and joint ventures.
When His Royal Highness The Crown Prince asked me to lead Diriyah Company, his first task for me was to build a best-in-class team. He told me to get the best in all the areas we work and with his support, we did just that. You name it – from culture and heritage to design and architecture – we have brought together the very best from the Kingdom and across the world. With a great team comes great results – my job is to make sure that everyone works together towards our common goal and to keep progress moving in the right direction…forwards!
The second way I address challenges is through planning. With so many moving parts across Diriyah Company and the development, meticulous planning is essential to delivering our goals and to mitigating potential risks. “Assess, action, manage”, three words to live by when managing a project like this.
An effective leader sees many steps ahead and acts proactively to address challenges before they are reached and certainly before they become issues. It is that principle that guides the way I engage with challenges in my role as GCEO and indeed as I have with any management role I have held.
How do you approach leadership and management, and what qualities are most important for a successful CEO?
There is no one size fits all approach to leadership and management but in my view, a successful CEO should be two things: a great motivator and an even better listener.
In any firm, the leader must inspire and motivate their staff. As I have already alluded to, a great team is essential to success but however competent the team is, if they feel disenfranchised, fail to work together, or are not guided by the bigger picture, they will not reach their full potential. A successful CEO should be able to energize the team to deliver to the very limits of their potential and to feel both a part of and essential to the success of the team.
The second quality for a successful CEO both enables and improves your ability to motivate – listening. If you fail to hear the concerns or challenges being faced by your staff or recognize a good idea and work to implement it, you will not be able to get the most out of your team’s skills or motivate them to perform.
To be a successful CEO then, you must be a great motivator and an even better listener.
How do you communicate the vision and goals of the company to your team and stakeholders and ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same objectives?
When a company or project has many staff and multiple divisions or areas of work, clear, consistent, and planned communication is essential.
In my view, maintaining ongoing communications with the employees keeps the company up-to-date and cognizant of progress and target areas of improvement. This leads to greater collaboration, team-member “buy-in” and a cohesive approach to delivery.
This must of course be combined with senior leadership meetings, strategy sessions, and careful planning of announcements, communications, and the launch of initiatives to optimize resources and meet (and hopefully exceed) your targets. The key: don’t think of communication as an afterthought – bring the team with you, then they will be by your side when you need them.
We have a saying “There’s only one Diriyah” This means each individual is critical to our success we are one family in our triumphs and challenges we are passionate and united by one vision of 2030.
How do you foster a culture of innovation and creativity within the organization and encourage employees to think outside the box?
Innovation is progress. From optimizing a process to reducing the resources required to pioneering a revolutionary new best practice that sets the new industry standard, innovation is essential to success.
I have never been afraid to change and improve. Who determines that the existing way is best? Who can claim that there is no better way? The answer to both is no one. We all innovate, no two people are the same and they do not work in the same way either.
I encourage everyone to work together and learn from each other – that is how you foster a culture of innovation and creativity. Learn from your neighbor, listen, watch, and try it out. So, the answer is simple – work together and learn together.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring CEOs just starting out in their careers?
Build relationships, be assertive, and try everything.
Experience counts; no experience is a bad experience. I spent 50 years working in all areas of the hospitality industry to get to where I am today. I have worked at almost every level and have a breadth and depth of experience that means I can understand the challenges of those around me…because I have been there!
So, build relationships, be assertive, try everything, learn as many skills as you can and build a repertoire that will prepare you for as much as possible. Being willing to learn is the key – you can never learn everything, but you can also never know enough and on top of it all work and live your life with service and gratitude.